MariaOrtega, 15, and her son, Miguel, decorate sugar cookies on Feb. 12 at a meetingfor teenage parents participating in the Oklahoma Parents As Teachers Program.In Tahlequah, Okla. (Photo by Christina Good Voice)
Cherokee Nation and Tahlequah Schools offer new Head Start
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation and Tahlequah Public Schools are partnering to offer an Early Head Start class for children of teen parents attending Tahlequah High School. The class is set to begin this spring at THS.
The class will care for nearly 50 children between the ages of 6 weeks to 3 years. THS will provide the on-campus facility, while the tribe will provide staff and other necessities.
The facility will be located in the same building as the Tahlequah Central Academy, an alternative education program where many teen parents attend classes.
“Tahlequah Public Schools is excited to be partnering with the Cherokee Nation Head Start to expand their program to serve our students who are teen parents,” said TPS Assistant Superintendent Billie Jordan. “We have recognized the need for this program for years and have searched for ways to provide this service so that teen parents can attend school and at the same time learn hands-on parenting skills while their babies receive quality child care.”
Laura Baltazar, 19, said she’s excited the class is nearly open because it would give her peace of mind knowing her children, 3-year-old Elder and 7-month-old Eyzel, would be cared for.
“It’ll be easier because they’ll just be right there,” she said.
Bethany McDonald, who is with the Oklahoma Parents As Teachers at Central Academy, said the class would also allow parents to ease their minds about paying for daycare.
Baltazar said she pays $400 a month for daycare, but with the class she can start saving that money.
“This will help save a lot of money,” she said. “A lot of young moms, we want to come to school but we have our babies.”
McDonald, who works daily with the teen parents on parenting skills, said she sees the class as removing an obstacle to their learning.
“I see a great way for our (OPAT) program to partner with the Head Start,” she said. “I see it merging so well. We’re going to be able to have better access to our teen moms. They’re going to be right here.”
Some teen moms said the class would also help them be able to concentrate more on school if they know their babies are in good hands. Maria Ortega, 15, said she’ll be able to focus better once the Head Start opens because her 10-month-old son Miguel will down the hall.
“It’s going to be easier,” she said. “He’ll be closer to me.”
Principal Chief Chad Smith said the CN created the program to be a good partner in the community, to keep teenage parents in school to finish their educations and get the fathers of the children involved in the children’s lives.
“Through establishing this partnership with the school, we can help provide a way for the students to continue their education, which in turn will help the community,” he said.
Tribal and school officials agreed that students have a better chance of attending college or another form of post-secondary education upon graduation from high school.
Doing so will help the students better provide for their family later, Jordan said.
“There is so much research showing what an effective program it is anyway and how well those babies do in school,” she said. “If we want to talk about really overcoming poverty, Head Start is a great way.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Stacy Leeds was recently named Northeastern State University’s 2015 Sequoyah Fellow, making her the third person to hold the title.
According to an NSU press release, the Sequoyah Fellow program provides an opportunity for the university and College of Liberal Arts to recognize an outstanding scholar in the field of Native American Studies who will share expertise with the NSU community during the fellowship year. Sequoyah Fellows are nationally and internationally renowned, have interest in scholarship and service to Native communities and have records of distinction at the highest levels of professional accomplishment in their fields.
“NSU and the College of Liberal Arts are grateful Dean Leeds has accepted our invitation to serve as our 2015 Sequoyah Fellow. She has no equal as a leading pioneer in jurisprudence, legal scholar, promoter of diversity and lifting up others in their pursuit of justice,” NSU Dean of Liberal Arts Dr. Phil Bridgmon said. “Her commitment to service and the next generation of leaders is truly humbling. Most importantly, she is a great person and we are pleased she will share her expertise with our students and community over the coming months.”
Leeds began her higher education journey at Washington University in St. Louis, earning a bachelor’s degree. She then attended the University of Tennessee and earned her master’s degree in business administration. Eventually, she earned her law degrees from the University of Tulsa School of Law (juris doctor) and the University of Wisconsin School of Law (master of laws.).
Leeds began her teaching career at the University of Wisconsin as a William H. Hastie Fellow. She continued it by serving as the director of the Northern Plains Indian Law Center at the University of North Dakota School of Law. She then took the position as the director of the Tribal Law and Government Center and the interim associate dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Kansas School of Law.
Now, Leeds serves as the dean and professor of Law at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville.
Leeds also serves as the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission chairwoman. Prior to that, her service to the tribe was as a justice on the CN Supreme Court. She was the first women and youngest individual to hold the position.
She has also served as a judge for seven tribal nations and on the federal Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform in which she provided guidance for reform to the U.S. Department of Interior.
In 2013, Leeds was honored by the American Bar Association and the National American Indian Court Judges Association for her efforts and public service to Indian country and for actively promoting diversity in the legal profession.
Former Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller served as the inaugural Sequoyah Fellow and CN Education Services Senior Advisor Dr. Neil Morton served in the role in 2014.
“I am deeply humbled and honored to step into the shoes once filled by Chief Wilma Mankiller and Dr. Neil Morton,” Leeds said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to interact with NSU students, staff and faculty as this next phase of the Sequoyah Fellowship legacy takes shape.”
CLAREMORE, Okla. (AP) – A local family, dedicated to the support of Native American communities, presented the endowed “Live an Honest Day” challenge scholarship of $25,000 to Rogers State University during the recent Claremore Chamber of Commerce Gridiron.
The Bickford family endowment to RSU was established for Native American students who plan to go into careers involving science, technology, engineering and/or math (STEM).
Community members and businesses have been asked to join in the challenge by donating toward the scholarship.
The endowment was established in memory of Paul Bickford, a longtime resident and supporter of Claremore, who died from a vehicle accident in April 2013. Paul was an advocate for Native American organizations, specifically the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES).
[BLOCKQUOTE]Owner of Cherokee Data Solutions Pamela Bickford, said her husband (Paul) understood that by instilling the love of STEM in today’s youth, brightens the future of tomorrow. For almost a decade, the Bickfords have sponsored AISES in Rogers County, increasing the representation of Native Americans in STEM through pre-college, college and professional programs.
In addition to AISES, Paul Bickford judged VEX Robotics competitions locally, and at the national level as a lead judge for the VEX World Championship events.
“Paul’s life’s work was dedicated to future generations,” said Pamela. “Currently, Native American drop-out rates, as well as poverty, drug abuse, domestic abuse and suicide rates are alarmingly high. It’s concerning to us as Native Americans, and so it made sense as a family to share Paul’s life mission — to encourage success among youth, particularly Native American students.”
Individuals and businesses wanting to accept the “Live an Honest Day” challenge, can visit any RCB Bank location and donate directly to the PFB Live an Honest Day Foundation.
“There’s no amount that’s too much or too little. Individuals, corporations and foundations are stepping up to join us in the essence of Paul’s mission for students in STEM,” Pamela said. “Our family stands in awe of everyone’s generosity, and more, that the future matters.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – As part of the Motor Fuel Tax compact the Cherokee Nation has with Oklahoma, every three months the tribe invests approximately $483,000, or 25 percent of its quarterly rebate check from the state, into the tribe’s Education Reserve Fund.
Created in 2000, the fund holds approximately $36.4 million, according to CN records.
“This reserve was created to be a source of funds that would enable us to fulfill our commitment to current Cherokee higher education students in the event that all other funding ceased or was otherwise unavailable,” CN Treasurer Lacey Horn said.
In the event the tribe was unable to successfully renegotiate a compact with the state, the fund was created to replace the tribe’s MFT funding for scholarships.
The current MFT compact is set to expire July 1, 2017. However, even if it does expire and is not renewed the tribe will still be able to utilize the reserve fund.
“The reserve was created for a purpose independent of the compact,” Horn said.
According to Legislative Act 8-00, the reserve is not to be used until 2017. The funds for current CN scholarships come from separate funding appropriations. At the end of the MFT compact, the interest from the monies deposited shall be used for higher education scholarships.
“Any usage of the reserve would be for the sole purpose of providing higher education scholarships,” Horn said.
CN Education Services Senior Advisor Dr. Neil Morton said the tribe funded 3,400 scholarships for the 2014 fall semester, and in August Tribal Councilors approved a $2.5 million increase for CN Education Services in college scholarships for Cherokee students.
In 2011, the state’s quarterly checks to the CN ranged from $1.8 million to $1.9 million. Today, they range from $1.9 million to $2.1 million. With 25 percent going to the Education Reserve Fund, the remaining 75 percent is allocated for other education programs, roads, health and law enforcement, which are set by the annual budget appropriations.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Foundation will help Cherokee high school juniors and seniors prepare for the upcoming ACT exams with free prep classes that will begin the first week of March and conclude the week of the National ACT exam in mid-April.
“These classes give our students an opportunity to prepare for the ACT, while they gain valuable test-taking skills that will help them throughout their academic career,” Janice Randall, CNF executive director, said. “We want every student to prepare to the best of their ability so they may have the opportunity to attend the school of their choice.”
The six-week course is offered at Indian Capital Technology Centers in Tahlequah and Muskogee and at Carl Albert State College in Sallisaw. Curriculum will include interactive instruction by a Princeton Review instructor and three practice tests.
Tahlequah classes will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays. Muskogee classes will be from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, and Sallisaw classes will be from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Mondays.
Students interested in the course can pick up registration forms from their high school guidance counselors or call the CNF at 918-207-0950. The deadline to enroll is Feb. 27.
TULSA, Okla. – Junior Achievement’s BizTown recently received a visit from approximately 200 fifth grade students from Tahlequah Public Schools. The visit consisted of the students running a mock town and gaining knowledge about the global economy.
The effort to bring students to the town is part of an ongoing partnership between Cherokee Nation Businesses, Cherokee Nation Foundation and Junior Achievement to help Cherokee students increase their financial literacy skills.
“This year we are pleased to have the opportunity to offer this program to more schools within the Cherokee Nation,” CNF Executive Director Janice Randall said. “JA BizTown provides students the perfect environment to blend classroom learning and hands-on application. It’s a wonderful experience and one that all of our students should have the opportunity to enjoy.”
Before students arrived to BizTown they completed three weeks worth of classroom courses to prepare for the visit. They also applied and interviewed for jobs within the town and even set up personal bank accounts in the city designed for children.
“When we watched the students begin their day in BizTown, it was clear that the prep work we had done in the classroom had really paid off. The students were educated about their job function and understood that every job was of equal importance,” said Heritage Elementary Principal Lacie Davenport. “As educators, we are always searching for ways to get the students engaged in their lessons, and BizTown was the perfect place for them to see their curriculum come to life.”
In 2014 approximately 1,500 students from the CN participated in an assortment of JA programs, which was approximately four times the amount of students in the previous year.
CNF estimates it will sponsor approximately 800 students to visit BizTown during the spring semester.
Aside from the various mock businesses in JA BizTown there is a replicated Cherokee Phoenix space where children create a paper containing the day’s events.
According to a Cherokee Nation press release, Junior Achievement is the world’s largest organization dedicated to preparing students for workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through hands-on programming. JA BizTown was first introduced to the Tulsa market in the fall of 2002. Only 28 markets in the United States provide the unique learning opportunity.
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism is awarding grants to schools to increase the knowledge of Cherokee history and culture for elementary students.
According to tourism officials, “funding is on a first-come, first-served basis.”
“Schools that do not meet the requirements or miss the deadline may experience the program for a small fee. Applications are available beginning Feb. 9 online at www.VisitCherokeeNation.com until Feb. 27, or until all available field trips have been filled for fall,” a tourism press release stated.
This is the sixth year for the grant program.
“Minimum requirements for eligibility for schools include being located within the Cherokee Nation’s 14-county jurisdiction, a majority of the school’s students must hold a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (C.D.I.B.) card, the school’s class size may not exceed tour capacity, and the majority of the school’s students must be eligible for free and/or reduced school lunches,” the release stated. “The grant-sponsored tours, available for grades third through sixth, are designed to promote priority academic student skills (P.A.S.S.) in various subjects while providing an authentic look into Cherokee heritage. Cherokee Nation has also arranged for special tour rates for seventh through 12th grade and college students.”
Twenty tours will be presented this semester. Fifteen of those will be specifically for schools in jurisdiction. The remaining five tours will be made for schools outside the jurisdiction.
“Tour groups must be limited to 60 students, with special circumstances taken into consideration. One adult chaperone for every 10 students during the tour is required at all times. Each school can qualify for a grant once per tour season, but can participate in the education tours as often as desired through separate funding,” the release states.
The program features three tours including the Cherokee History Tour, The Will Rogers Tour and the Civil War Tour.
“In addition to the education tours, a variety of add-ons are available for an additional fee, including transportation on a 22-passenger shuttle bus, box lunches and cultural activities such as basket weaving, pottery and mini stickball making,” the release states. “The students and/or school will provide lunch, water and/or snacks unless prearranged at sign-up.”
The tourism group created an educational curriculum with is available to teachers during registration.
“The teacher’s curriculum guide is designed to serve as a teaching tool to prepare students for the education tour. Teachers will find more than 30 pages of historical information to share with their students. A student activity book has been created that corresponds to the teacher’s curriculum guide,” the release states. “The goal of the activity book is to prepare students for the tour by giving them background information beforehand so they can fully benefit from the information and experiences they will encounter on the tour while also meeting the state of Oklahoma’s P.A.S.S. objectives.”
For more information or to book a tour call 918-384-7787.